Jeter discusses Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak

August 4th, 2020

Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter spoke publicly on Monday for the first time since the team had its season put on hold on July 26 due to the coronavirus spreading throughout the club. And while an internal review conducted by the Marlins revealed the club’s traveling party made missteps that may have led to the COVID-19 outbreak within the team, Jeter emphatically said that reports that any members of the group were partying in Atlanta are false.

“The entire traveling party is responsible for not following the protocols as is instructed,” Jeter said on Monday during a Zoom call. “That includes coaches, staff and players. Everyone has seen the impact. They've seen their teammates get sick. I know they all have a new level of appreciation [for the danger of the virus].

“Hopefully, this has been a wakeup call for everyone. Not only on our team, but the rest of baseball and sports, in general.”

The rash of positive tests came after the Marlins took two of three from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Miami had 18 players and two coaches test positive. After spending a week in quarantine at Philadelphia, the Marlins bused to Baltimore on Sunday and will resume the season on Tuesday night. Right-hander Pablo López is slated to start for Miami in the series opener with the Orioles.

“Have a little empathy for our players,” Jeter said. “They've been stricken with a virus that has no cure other than to run its course. Our players and coaches went into this knowing that their health was on the line. Unfortunately, they've had to endure quite a trying time over the last week-plus. We have seen firsthand how contagious this virus is.”

The infected players are back in South Florida and remain in quarantine while being treated by the Marlins’ medical staff.

“The players are doing OK,” Jeter said. “We have a lot of players who are asymptomatic, we have players who are showing mild symptoms. Our players now are quarantined down here in Miami so they can have the care of our medical staff.”

The Marlins' road trip began on July 21 with the first of two exhibition games at Atlanta. Miami’s Opening Day was on July 24 at Philadelphia. Prior to that game, catcher Jorge Alfaro was placed on the injured list with an undisclosed injury. On July 26, right-hander José Ureña was scratched from his scheduled start, and outfielder Harold Ramirez and first baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper weren’t in the lineup. All three went on the injured list the following day.

“We did have a couple of individuals leave the hotel [in Atlanta],” Jeter said. “In our review, we did have guys leave to get coffee, to get clothes. A guy left to have dinner at a teammate's house. There were no other guests on site. There was no salacious activity. There was no hanging out at bars. No clubs. No running around Atlanta. No running around the town.”

Marlins principal owner Bruce Sherman and Jeter ordered an internal review and awaited its findings before speaking publicly. Major League Baseball also conducted its own investigation.

“What it boiled down to on this particular trip was guys were around each other, they got relaxed, and they let their guard down,” Jeter said. “They were getting together in groups. They weren't wearing masks as much as they should have. They weren't social distancing. Everyone was getting tested.

“We went the whole Spring Training 2.0 without a positive. The entire traveling party got a little too comfortable. Should they have been doing that? No. And that has been addressed.”

With 18 players headed to the injured list, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and his staff have been tasked with restocking the roster.

The Marlins have added seven relievers in the past week -- left-handers Brian Moran, Josh D. Smith and Richard Bleier; right-handers James Hoyt, Mike Morin and Justin Shafer; and Pat Venditte, who throws with both arms.

Hill said Monday that the club also plans to add from the alternate site: outfielders Matt Joyce, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison; infielders Eddy Alvarez and Logan Forsythe; catcher Ryan Lavarnway; and right-handers Nick Vincent, Jorge Guzman and Jordan Yamamoto.

“It has been a challenge, and we know that this last week has been a challenge for everyone,” Hill said. “Major League Baseball has put protocols in place. And we all have to do better. I’m with the team. I’m part of the travel party. You get into competition. You get into the instinctive part of the game, and sometimes you might get too comfortable. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, and we have to follow protocols.”